Star Trek fans bash ‘tone deaf’ eco-NFT inside self-replicating bacteria
A non-fungible token (NFT) of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s signature is claiming a greener approach after fans blasted earlier projects.
In yet another NFT gimmick, the code of a tokenized version of Roddenberry’s John Hancock from a 1965 contract has been implanted into a strand of DNA.
The DNA is stored within a self-replicating bacteria cell, press materials say. The associated NFT was minted with Solana’s Metaplex protocol.
Project backer Roddenberry Entertainment (established by Gene’s son) calls it the world’s first “living eco-NFT” and promises a “net-zero, if not a carbon-negative, environmental categorization.”
The code of the NFT replicates and grows as the organism’s cells duplicate. This is supposedly a greener alternative to minting new NFTs on Ethereum, albeit via a process that’s almost entirely mumbo-jumbo.
Star Trek keeps trying NFTs
Such hippie-pandering comes after Trek fans directed anger at the Roddenberry Foundation (a non-profit founded in Gene’s name) over its previous NFT attempt in November.
Fans were asked to contribute art to form part of an NFT sold for philanthropic purposes.
However, the initiative didn’t sit well with Trekkies perturbed by the energy-intensive process of cryptographically verifying NFTs on certain blockchains.
“It feels extremely tone-deaf to associate a work like Star Trek (a universe that prides itself with overcoming such things as capitalism and the accumulation of wealth and other limited resources) with something as wasteful and superficial as NFTs,” Trek fan Hye Mardikian told Protos.
“It just feels like a PR firm slithered their way into Trek-tangential circles and convinced them that NFTs are the wave of the future, without actually explaining what it was (or perhaps even fully understanding it themselves).”
They added that the whole thing “reeks of corporations’ need to follow the money by whatever means necessary“; a “cold reminder” that the Star Trek brand is owned by a corporation.
“Roddenberry might’ve merchandised the hell out of trek while he was still alive, sure, but it feels extremely disengenuous and in very poor taste,” said Mardikian.
Roddenberry Foundation bows to public opinion
The Foundation (a charity in Gene’s name) eventually abandoned the NFT part of its Boldy Go campaign due to the community reaction.
“We were committed to pursuing this in a responsible, ethical, and eco-friendly manner, but we realize that this campaign is not the place to try and navigate the inherent challenges with this medium,” said the Roddenberry Foundation on Monday.
Instead, selected fan art will be engraved on satellites and blasted off into space to form an interstellar art installation.
And so, armed with an NFT gimmick it promises is totally green, Roddenberry Entertainment is pressing on with its own Star Trek crypto collectible.
Taken from a contract between Roddenberry and Desilu Productions’ Lucille Ball, the signature represents the start of the sci-fi series.
Stick the code-smuggling cells under an electron microscope and you won’t see Roddenberry’s signature. It’s the code of the NFT that has been grafted onto the DNA of the host organism.
Trekkies hoping to secure a few cells for themselves will have to leave their Petri dishes at home and instead settle for a viewing at Art Basel 2021 in Miami.
DNA is really good at data
Star Trek is an estimated $10-billion media monolith.
Along with Netflix reboots, Trek fans have been inundated with NFT projects — even beyond the weird ‘philantrophy’ and ‘living organism’ projects.
A recent trading card NFT collaboration between Star Trek and Funko was also met with the Twitter equivalent of sighs and rolled eyes.
Injecting self-replicating bacteria with DNA embedded with NFT code is certainly gimmicky, the concept does prove the concept of storing man-made data in nature’s hard drives.
According to a Northwestern study, DNA is millions of times more efficient than current data storage options.
In fact, DNA is so efficient at storage that all data on the planet could be contained inside a relatively small amount of DNA.
Still, the NFT/DNA frontier isn’t exactly unexplored. One Harvard scientist announced the planned sale of his genetic sequence as a form of NFT art.
Read more: [Harvard professor’s genome NFT hints at our dystopian crypto-future]
However, the June 10 auction was indefinitely postponed after a downturn in NFT markets.
In any case, this latest Star Trek NFT (“El Primo” as it’s known), is just another reminder that corporates will happily and boldly stick NFTs where no man has gone before — whether the fans want it or not.
“Donate those profits directly to charity; remove the middle man of the NFT,” suggested Trek fan Mardikian. “Invest that money that would’ve been made from the NFT into paying artists to make merch with unique styles and niches that people would line up in droves for.”
“Make impacts on the lives that are here now and are trying to help build that better future. Don’t invest it in a hyperlink that no one will archive, or will eventually change, as the internet constantly does.”
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